New York Times columnist David W. Dunlap wrote a decade ago that “on the map of the Jewish Diaspora, Harlem Is Atlantis. . . . A vibrant hub of industry, artistry and wealth is all but forgotten. It is as if Jewish Harlem sank 70 years ago beneath waves of memory beyond recall.” During World War I, Harlem was the home of the second largest Jewish community in America. But in the 1920s Jewish residents began to scatter to other parts of Manhattan, to the outer boroughs, and to other cities. Now nearly a century later, Jews are returning uptown to a gentrified Harlem.
The Jews of Harlem follows Jews into, out of, and back into this renowned metropolitan neighborhood over the course of a century and a half. It analyzes the complex set of forces that brought several generations of central European, East European, and Sephardic Jews to settle there. It explains the dynamics that led Jews to exit this part of Gotham as well as exploring the enduring Jewish presence uptown after it became overwhelmingly black and decidedly poor. And it looks at the beginnings of Jewish return as part of the transformation of New York City in our present era. The Jews of Harlem contributes much to our understanding of Jewish and African American history in the metropolis as it highlights the ever-changing story of America’s largest city.
With The Jews of Harlem, the beginning of Dunlap’s hoped-for resurfacing of this neighborhood’s history is underway. Its contemporary story merits telling even as the memories of what Jewish Harlem once was warrants recall.
"What stays with you long after you have finished [The Jews of Harlem] is Gurock's steadfast devotion to his subject. Not too many of us have either the opportunity or the inclination to turn things over and over again. We would do well to follow his example."
—Jewish Review of Books
"The Jews of Harlem skillfully traces Jewish Harlem from its tentative beginnings to the years when Jewish life there rivaled that of the Lower East Side, and from the massive migration elsewhere to the community's even more tentative reemergence today. It's an important piece of american Jewish History."
"This well-written volume makes clear that the Harlem Jewish community significantly influenced American Jewry as a whole . . . This is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of American Judaism."
No one knows the history of the Jews in Harlem as well as Jeffrey S. Gurock, and this latest book recounts in wonderful detail not only their move uptown from the Lower East Side early in the 20th century, but their important role in the revival of the neighborhood in the 21st century. The Jews of Harlem is engagingly written and persuasively argued, and it will soon be recognized as a classic account of community change in a contested environment.
—Kenneth T. Jackson, Barzun Professor of History, Columbia University
Jeffrey Gurock offers an evocative account of the evolution of Jewish Harlem. This book is a "must read" for anyone interested in race, religion, and culture in New York's ever-changing neighborhood.
—Beth S. Wenger, Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania
Jeffrey Gurock is the historian of Jewish Harlem, but he is also its anthropologist and sociologist. He chronicles the fortunes of this storied neighborhood treasured by blacks and Jews and now home to both groups with the fresh-eyed relish of an explorer discovering a new land yet with the authority of an old-timer intimately familiar with every block and alley. He has populated his fascinating tale of Jewish Harlem's development, decline, and resurgence not just with events and institutions but with flesh and blood people who bring the community to vivid life.
—Joseph Berger, author of The Pious Ones: The World of Hasidim and Their Battles with America
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